Soon after we posted the TNIV to our prepublication program I received a personal email from a user who was troubled and disappointed that we would digitize this (admittedly controversial) Bible version.
I appreciate that this user took the time to write and am grateful that he expressed himself in a loving manner. Two lines from his email really stood out to me and seem worthy of broader discussion. He concluded his email, “I had thought Logos far more worthy of our confidence than this last example. If you continue to make offerings like this, you will soon lose your reputation for being a leader in producing first class materials.”
This is not the first time I’ve heard statements along these lines and it seems to point up a disconnect between what we see ourselves as doing and what at least some of our users see us as doing.
Statements like these suggest to me the presence of an idea or expectation that Logos serves as a content filter for the material we digitize. It approaches an implicit assumption that the books we publish somehow bear the “Logos Seal of Approval.”
I’d like to challenge this notion and try to clear the air of it if I can. For one thing, what would such a seal of approval mean? Would it stand for a specific theological flavor, particular academic school of thought, a denominational bent?
And who would set the tone? The 100+ people who work at Logos are a moderately diverse group of people; you could visit many different churches around Bellingham and find some of our staff in attendance. Further, we have no oversight committee or editorial board for this, and as far as I know we don’t desire to take on this kind of role.
Having been present at many of the meetings where we decide which titles to offer next on the prepub program, I would describe the process as follows:
1. Is this book useful to people who are studying the Bible?
2. Do we think it would be a good addition to the Libronix Digital Library System?
3. Do we have a license?
That’s about it. If the answer to these three questions is ‘yes’ it nearly always goes into the queue.
We spend less time thinking about the content per se than you might think (though we spend a lot of time thinking about how it should work in the system). We firmly believe that the Bible in its original manuscripts is reliable; everything beyond that should be used judiciously and with discernment.
And I believe this approach is intentional…we want the “Logos bookstore” to be just like any heart-stoppingly-great bookstore you’ve ever walked into. Filled to the ceiling with books–an embarrassment of riches in digital titles!
And just like any really good bookstore, it’s up to you to decide which books you want. You might buy books to agree with them or to disagree with them, and that’s okay. The point is, the choice should be yours.
In fact, this broad scope is one of the unique strengths of the Logos model. Unlike a software platform that contains the works of only one publisher or one denomination, Logos offers a much broader vision: the world’s entire corpus of writing that can be used to study the Bible, from the ancient world through today…all on your hard drive.
Now you may not share that vision for your own hard drive, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be left out in the cold. The beauty of this vision is that it also serves the needs of those who want their own personal library to very strongly reflect their own interests, beliefs, creed, etc. Why? Because there’s a higher probability that the material you like (no matter which denomination you belong to) will be available for Libronix DLS. You just have to do the legwork to know which material you like, seeking out recommendations from a source which shares your theology.
Just writing this post brings it home to me that there is a definite need for more bibliographic “metabooks” (or perhaps more of us, myself included, should take advantage of the many that have been written). And it would be great to have more of these metabooks as electronic books in Libronix.
I think there’s also room for more brief, objectively-written guides to books on Logos.com to help our users navigate the 5,000 titles now available for the system, much like a bookstore owner who offers suggestions based not on his own likes and dislikes but based on his extensive knowledge of what’s available.
But the key here is to expose and debunk the myth that Logos is an implicit gatekeeper or filter that places our theological seal of approval on every electronic book we publish. It’s more helpful to think of us as a digital bookstore that assists you in finding what you want and need, but doesn’t intend to make the decision for you.
Update 2005-8-16: I should have mentioned this in the original post…A number of “recommended lists” and bibliographies have now been collected at The Pastor’s Library website: www.thepastorslibrary.com.